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Cintra Wilson Goes Shopping:

San Francisco Renewal Edition

ArticleLargeThe lull between Christmas and New Year's hasn't slowed down Critical Shopper Cintra Wilson. Apparently coming from a West Coast Holiday jaunt, her report slated for tomorrow's Thursday Styles features Wilkes Bashford, a San Francisco specialty store so legendary that it almost went out of business a few months ago. Both Wilkes, the person and the store, are admired and respected enough that the company's bankruptcy and subsequent sale easily made the front pages of WWD. Thanks to a surprise monsoon, The Shophound missed visiting Wilkes on our trip to California last October, and we are kind of glad in retrospect. We didn't realize it, but it was a store in deep distress at that particular moment.
When faced with the presence of both the store's namesake and one of its new owners, La Cintra wisely keeps most of her barbs in check. After all, this is a store in transition —a new logo in keeping with the style of with its new parent already graces a website otherwise under construction, a dubious improvement. Instead she focuses on the store's carefully cultivated service and charismatic leader. She acknowledges that Wilkes Bashford could benefit from more than a little updating, but leaves the question open as to whether its new owners, the Connecticut based family behind the equally revered Mitchells, Richards and Marshs, are saviors or interlopers, keen to remake the store in their familiar East coast image,
ONE hopes the Mitchells recognize that the soul of the business really shouldn’t change, and that the soul of Wilkes Bashford still belongs to Wilkes Bashford. It’s him; it’s about his humanity, connectivity, genuine kindness and personal interest in everyone, from the collar size and hazel eyes of the rich guy from Pacific Heights down to the assistant accountant in the business department. It’s the recognition that a retail store exists in a community made of distinct individuals.
Tread lightly, carpetbaggers.
Critical Shopper | Wilkes Bashford: The Man Stays in the Game by Cintra Wilson (NYTimes)
Wilkes Bashford 375 Sutter Street between Stockton Street and Grant Avenue, San Francisco

Can Someone Please Explain?:

The Mysterious UGG Line

We have become accustomed to regularly seeing lines outside some stores like the Marc by Marc Jacobs accessory store on Bleecker Street, Abercrombie & Fitch on Fifth Avenue or the crowd of fanatic collectors outside A Bathing Ape in SoHo when new items are released.
But UGGs?
There has been a line outside that store all month, and now that Christmas is over, it's still there. The picture above was taken at around 3 PM yesterday —a Monday. (Apparently, the line is forced to break in front of the art gallery next to the Ugg boutique, but continues down the block.)
Aren't there tons of places in the city that sell these things? What is the matter with these people?
We were hoping that Uggs were one of those trends that would die with the end of the '00s like trucker hats or (please!!) Crocs.
Apparently, it's going to take a little longer than that.

Post Christmas Post:

Everything's On Sale

So we have had a nice few days off, and we're not done yet. Since half of the city is on vacation, you can expect light posting this week.
As for sale news, with a few exceptions, pretty much every store is in clearance mode to some extent. Even Gilt Groupe is holding final sales for women this week. Don't expect to find a bonanza of deep markdowns out in the shops like you saw a year ago, however. Inventory levels are not nearly as high as they were last year, and some stores have not gone past 40% off. Lots of retailers who were only too happy to slash prices at the end of last year are now much more prudently stocked with far less aggressive markdowns, and Holiday business appears, for the most part, to have met their more modest expectations. If you have any extra cash rattling around after your Holiday shopping, you still shouldn't have any trouble disposing of it in New York. Here's a couple of things to keep in mind:
• Some chains like J.Crew regularly post deeper markdowns in their stores than they do on line in certain regions, particularly New York. For example, there are lots of men's shirts on sale at JCrew.com marked down from $60-65 to $39.99 with an extra 20% off, but in the stores, they are marked down to $19.99 with an extra 30% off. That's 75% off, or more —certainly a better price than the J.Crew sample sales that go on periodically in midtown. Bergdorf's, Saks and Neiman Marcus tend to have better clearance prices in-store as well because their online divisions are often run as wholly separate divisions.
• There are still some holdouts like Paul Smith, where we saw not a single sale tag, but then he also has a special clearance store in Williamsburg, so it may be worth it to go out of our way if you are jonesing for a bargain. Inexplicably, his UK online store is reduced, but not his US version. So cruel.
Of course, if you are shopped out like us, you could spend the just spend the week going to the movies.
We'll be back to full speed next Monday.
That is all.
UPDATE: It turns out that the Paul Smith stores took their first markdowns just this morning (Monday) with 30% off selected merchandise. It's about time, though we maintain that beginning reductions a few days after Christmas still shows enormous restraint.

Collaboration Anticipation:

Another Peek At +J Spring

UNIQLO's +J label, its collaboration with the designer Jil Sander, bows today in its Asian Stores, so the only previews have been in Tokyo. These pictures, which we are borrowing from WWD, should give you all a better idea of what to expect when the first delivery of the collection gets released here on January 14th. It's soft and light featuring pastel colored technologically innovative fabrics developed with some of Europe's finest mills.
While we are just a tad piqued that Asia gets it before we do, we think we can remain calm for about three weeks to perk up the January doldrums. The good news is that the line will now be broken up into three deliveries, January, mid-March and April. The Men's collection has also been expanded to about 60 pieces, and will be included in the first two shipments.
Jil Sander Adds Shot of Color to +J Line WWD
More images after the jump

Continue reading "Collaboration Anticipation:

Another Peek At +J Spring" »

Something To Look Forward To:

Jérôme Dreyfuss Is In The Works
On Broome Street

Though his paramour, the web-shy Isabel Marant is still covering her windows in craft paper, French accessory designer Jérôme Dreyfuss is announcing his imminent arrival to the New Yorkers at his upcoming shop next door, #475. The two are arriving as a package deal to liven up the Southwestern corner of Broome and Greene Streets next Spring, and hopefully, they will lessen the sting of losing PHI half a block away.
Dreyfuss' slouchy bags should have no trouble attracting customers around Mid-February, when his 2,486-square-foot store is slated to open.
Jérôme Dreyfuss Official Site
Couples Retailing: Isabel Marant Coming To SoHo With Husband In Tow


PHI To Close

We are sad to report that one of The Shophound's favorite labels, PHI is closing according to WWD. Created by Susan Dell (wife of Dell Computers' Michael Dell), the company will be shuttering due to the economic conditions that have been challenging so many luxury companies.
As a small, exclusive brand, PHI has enjoyed an select distribution with most elite stores and was developing a devoted cult of clients. The small runway shows in the company's Chelsea showroom featured the most in-demand models, attracted the top editors and retailers and had become one of the most prized invitations at New York fashion week. The Fall '09 collection was selling well in the few stores lucky enough to carry it, but ultimately, the business itself apparently hadn't grown enough to weather the merciless economy.
The label's final collection will be the pre-Spring line that is currently arriving in stores, and the stylish Greene Street boutique will closing at the end of January, and the Spring collection shown in September (pictured above) will presumably not be produced.
PHI has been a great friend to The Shophound. We will miss those exciting shows, and wish the best of luck to our friends there.
Susan Dell's Phi Label Shutting Down (WWD)

Have Pop-Ups Peaked?

Target5 Today, WWD declares the Pop-Up Store phenomenon over, suggesting that it is a result of an excess of empty retail space that, with rents dropping, will soon be filled permanently. Don't tell that to the many many companies that are running pop-ups at the moment —far to many for us to keep track of. We can't argue that the proliferation of temporary stores hasn't worn off the concept's novelty. Given that most of the article runs down the many designers and retailers who continue to employ the concept, we don't see the trend evaporating just yet, but at this point, we are only interested if the shop has a reason for being, like The Limited's tiptoe back into Manhattan to show off its new look, or the Comme des Garçons BLACK shop in Chelsea, which has its own exclusive collection.
Do we really need a special Gucci temporary sneaker store when there are two large Gucci boutiques uptown? Probably not, but as long as Target wants to stage pop-ups in Manhattan, we'll keep visiting, although we would trade all those temporary shops for just one conveniently located Target in this borough.*
Novelty Fading for Pop-Up Shops by Sharon Edelson (WWD)
*Sorry, as much as we will be happy to see it open this Spring, the upcoming Target at West 116th Street and the FDR Drive is, sadly, not what we would consider conveniently located.

Collaboration Anticipation:

Surprises And Disappointments
As Rodarte For Target Launches

Yesterday, the much anticipated Rodarte for Target collections hit the malls and the internet, and now the inevitable blogger responses have been filed, questioning the quality, but marveling at the breadth of the collaboration.
Madison Avenue Spy has expressed deep disappointment over the quality of the fabrics and construction of the items. That much previewed sequin ribcage dress seems to be the main point of disenchantment with fabric like "a Disney fairy princess costume".
Our friends at RACKED headed to a Jersey City Target and seem equally dismayed with the line's execution, suggesting that the Mulleavy Sisters who design the label might have done better working with a retailer like Anthropologie which might have resulted in a somewhat more expensive product, but a much a higher quality level. They were, however pleasantly surprised that there were quite a few more items available in store than online. Other shoppers appeared to be interested, and sales staff report that it is selling just fine, and eBay is already full of the line at quadruple the price.
Online, all reports point to a sellout, although there's now way of knowing who is going to keep what they ordered once they can actually try it on and judge the quality for themselves.
Here's something to keep in mind: we are talking about $45 dresses here from designers whose intricate, artisan-made creations regularly hit five figures.
Perhaps expectations were were a little inflated?
Maybe just a little?

The Window Watcher:

Has Bloomingdale's Outed
Batman & Robin?

This season, Bloomingdale's has been celebrating the 75th Anniversary of DC Comics with a special selection of exclusive merchandise from brands like Converse, Psycho Bunny and Jack Spade among others. We were kind of hoping that they would take the opportunity to do an Epic Superhero Holiday Extravaganza for their windows, but instead have only placed core characters Batman & Robin in a vaguely questionable situation that would appear to confirm the long held suspicions of some that the two are more than just a crime-fighting duo.
The Lexington Avenue window is entitled "Dynamic Duos", and features the team alongside other famous couples that otherwise have nothing else whatsoever to do with each other, including Antony and Cleopatra, Barack and Michelle Obama, and Santa and Mrs. Claus. Is the window suggesting that Batman & Robin are indeed romantically linked like the others? Given the general ineptness of this window, we tend to think not. It is probably just an unintended effect of trying to wedge a store promotion into a not terribly well-conceived holiday display. The mannequins are so ill-matched that they don't even appear to come from the same workshop. In fact it's basically impossible for any of these pairs to exist at the same time in any single universe, especially since some of them are imaginary.
There's lots of things to love about Bloomingdale's, but their Holiday windows, in general, have never garnered the kind of acclaim and attention that Barneys, Bergdorf's and Saks have (Though this particular window is basically a mess, we want to mention that the other windows have  been executed with somewhat more finesse). Now they have unwittingly referenced decades of very unofficial fan generated slash-fiction that portrays the Batman and Robin (in this case, Bruce Wayne and his ward, Tim Drake, judging from their costumes) as lovers which, in many cases, has incurred vigilant legal action from DC. The publisher has always firmly maintained that the two are just friends and coworkers, despite Batman's lack of a steady romantic interest like Superman and Lois Lane, for example (There's that tortured relationship with Catwoman, but we digress...). While there are a few gay characters in the vast DC Universe, and many heroes and villains have been re-conceived over the decades. Batman and Robin have never officially been adapted like that, and probably won't be anytime soon.
Since DC is in the middle of a promotion with Bloomingdale's, we aren't quite sure how they will respond, if at all. Perhaps Batman & Robin are just serving as security for Santa and his celebrity visitors —because why would they have anything else to do?

Pop-Up Alert:

Here, NAU, But Not Forever

There are barely a couple of weeks left for the NAU pop-up store on Mercer Street in SoHo, and considering the tundra-like weather that has been forecast for the next few days, this would be a god time to stop by (also because they have put a bunch of stuff on sale).
For those unfamiliar with the brand, Nau is a Portland, Oregon based company dedicated to making sustainable outdoor and performance apparel. If this sounds dry and humorless to you, that's understandable, but you probably haven't seen the product, which is modern, stylish and thoughtfully designed. At its best, it's kind of like a happy meeting of Patagonia and Jil Sander, and while the goods are as eco-conscious as you could ask for, nobody is beating you over the head with social responsibility. The first thing that strikes us about their products is good design, which may be the very best way to make customers environmentally conscious. In addition, Nau donates 2% of every sale to humanitarian and environmental Partners for Change and offers a $10,000 grant every year to an individual or small team working for positive change.
In addition to its own label, the shop rounds out its stock with a few items from like-minded brands like Timberland Boot Company, Loomstate and Edun, but it won't be there forever. After New Year's Eve, Nau will pack its tent and move back home, though if they decided to stay a while longer, it would be a welcome addition.
Here NAU NYC Pop-Up store 69 Mercer Street between Spring & Broome Streets, SoHo